Bidding adieu to Dr. Christian Legros
1. When did you start volunteering at B-IWA? Could you describe your experience here?
I started to know about both IWSA (International Association of Water Services) and IAWPRC (International Association on Water Pollution Research and Control) who were active in these respective fields before their fusion to IWA in 1999 shortly after being engaged as director of Belgaqua (at that time still ANSEAU/NAVEWA). My contacts were obviously more intense with the drinking water side at that time as Belgaqua itself was the national committee of IWSA. My colleague Nicole van Eylen at the secretariat was more connected to the Belgian committee of IAWPRC. This association focussed on waste water and water quality in the environment in a broader sense and organized a yearly seminar where water scientists and people from the industry as well as regulators were involved.
2. What did you enjoy/like the most about this organization? Is there anything that you didn’t enjoy/like?
Having been active in other field before joining Belgaqua, I got to discover a lot of issues about water and taking part to the activities of these committees and at international level up to the Governing assembly of IWSA gave me amazing opportunities to learn a lot and be part of it, discovering many nice people and sharing knowledge. The World Congresses were organized in different parts of the world. Those I took part to happened in Budapest, Durban, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Paris, Berlin and many other cities. In the first years, Belgaqua organized group travels with more than 60 people and touring around the host countries during one post-congress week. A lot of adventures and responsibilities for the shepherd ! Later on, this vanished due to more stringent company governance rules and each participant had to manage her/his own participation and travel.
3. Your association has been very long with B-IWA.. Would you have any words of wisdom for the current and future B-IWA members?
B-IWA members are all alert and devoted to their job. A new generation has shown up and this gives much confidence about the future. Very important is the keep our minds wide open and look all around. For scientists it is also good and interesting to know, discover and link to history, social sciences, education, economics, welfare and why not sports. In a few words: be part of humanity.
4. In the future, do you intend to stay connected with us on some level?
I would really appreciate to remain member and take part to B-IWA activities even after leaving the professional lifetime, just for fun. But let's be realistic: it is time for the new generation to pick-up.
5. Can you give an inspiring message to motivate the YWP’s?
Humanity has to tackle unprecedented challenges to keep a sustainable environment with the growing population and climate change and all its consequences including migration stress and conflicts. As a young scientist I had the opportunity to be part of the first small group who warned against this threat with no or just a tiny audience. It is now time to act resolutely and one got the feeling that it is always "too little, too late". But this is just a reason more to engage.
6. Do you think B-IWA will keep its significance in the future? On which aspect should they focus more on?
Every organization needs to adapt to its changing environment and so will B-IWA do. Considering all what needs to be done and enhance cooperation on a broader scale B-IWA and fellow organizations have a clear role to play. No room for competition, bring people together.
A short CV of Christian:
I was born in 1955 in Wilrijk (Antwerp) where I lived up to the age of 7. Then our family moved to Waterloo. I studied Physics at the faculty of Namur (batchelor) and subsequently at UCL in Louvain-la-Neuve (licence). My scientific memoire was about "sensitivity analysis of bi-gaussian models for the dispersion of atmospheric pollution" in the department of meteorology under supervision of Prof. André Berger. My first short jobs and contracts remained in this field, with in between periods of unemployment. I was indeed part of the first generation of scientists to share the problems related to the upsurge of restrictions in the wake of the economic crisis.
At the turn of the 1980's, the care for environment faded at political level and I switched to the energy saving field, as manager of the R&D program at the Science Policy Office (Prime Minister Department). This was brutally terminated in 1986 by the new government and especially the young Deputy Prime Minister Guy Verhofstad whose nick name at that time was "Baby-Thatcher". Surely wisdom grew with years passing and knowing more about the world… Thus moving to the national coordination of the "Eureka !" initiative and technology development programs. I left the Science Policy Office in 1990 and switched to management consulting and in parallel following a 3rd cycle in business administration at IAG at Louvain-la-Neuve. This experience of management consulting was a mismatch but a very instructive step to know in which direction to move on.
All this lead me to become director of Belgaqua in 1992. My 17th job and this time for a long period.
1. What was the motivation to host a podcast (and why not conduct a seminar/presentation)?
I strongly believe in the one nail, multiple hammers principal: bring the same message in many different ways and you will reach more people and eventually evoke change. I was already engaging with media, writing, speaking, … so a podcast was a logical next step, especially since I love listening to them myself. It’s a way to reach yet other people compared to my other activities.
2. Why did you choose this topic for the podcast? Why did you choose this name “HELDER” specifically?
Water plays a very important part in my (professional) life and has for many years now. Throughout the years I’ve notices that there are still a lot of misconceptions about our water and things people simply do not know. Where does it come from? How is it produced? Is it safe? I wanted to tackle those in a simple and clear way in the podcast. That also explains the name, which has two meanings in Dutch (and in fact in English): ‘HELDER’ means ‘clear’. I want my explanation to be clear as much as people like to have clear water.
3. Could you tell our readers a bit more about it? Why should we listen to it (for the ones who haven’t done it yet) and is there a message to us as a society?
In short, 20-ish minute long episodes, I try to provide an answer to everyday questions about water. I do this together with my dad, who is no scientist, but has a healthy interest in science and sustainability. With our questions, I approach experts and all of that together provides a lot of insight. The main message is that our drinking water is safe and healthy, and that we should not take it for granted!
4. Everyone seems to have enjoyed your dad’s presence in the episodes. How did he come on-board and how was the experience?
It’s great to have him on board! We joke that we should have started recording our conversations long ago since people seem to like them so much. He’s always been very interested in science and in what I do, so we’ve always had these kitchen table conversations. He asks very critical questions and often questions that I had never thought about or things that I found very obvious. When working on the concept for the podcast, we quickly realised that to reach the target audience we wanted, we needed an approachable side-kick, someone that represented that audience. And that’s how my dad came on board.
5. How many people did you interview for it? Any particular names that stand out?
For the first season, I interviewed 8 experts. I was in the process of making an appointment with prof. Arjen Hoekstra to interview him on the water footprint. He’s THE expert when it comes to that subject, but unfortunately he unexpectedly passed away before I could talk to him, which I regret deeply. Of course the name that stands out to me the most is Frank Deboosere, our national weather guy. He is truly a pleasure to talk to and I’m very proud that we could get him on the podcast (and that I was a guest on his!).
6. Would you recommend other’s to make a podcast? What are the most important things that you learnt yourself from it?
Making a podcast is fun, but I always want to encourage people to find forms of communication that they like themselves and that they are comfortable with. The most important thing I learnt is to not underestimate the time and money it takes to make something that sounds professional. It is very important to have a good concept before starting. Who will be your audience, what is the best way to reach them, what is your story and why would a podcast be the best way to realize all of that? I have also gained a deep respect for audio-technicians and how they can make everything sound better and easier to listen to.
7. Any memorable things to share from the shoot? Any bloopers that were not taken up in the final podcast?
I actually have a separate folder on my computer called ‘dad-jokes’ in which I’m compiling some audio snippets of my dad making jokes. Not sure if they’ll ever see the light of day though… might just be for me J
8. Can we expect a season 2 of HELDER?
Yes! And interviews have recently started! I’m very happy to have sponsors again and to be able to make a second season. We’ll be talking about groundwater, the water footprint, surface water, alternative sources for drinking water and many other topics… A lot of my experiences have also lead to a book, mainly written by Toon Verlinden, with my help, which will come out in May 2020! See https://www.academiapress.be/nl/weg-van-water
Kudos to Dr. Michel Caluwé
1. How did you realise that this position was appropriate for you and from where did you learn about it? I’m already a while involved in IWA, mainly in the IWA YWP Benelux group. True the IWA connect platform I’m trying to following the YWP community world wide a bit. In 2019 – 2020 I was intensely involved in the organisation of the 6th YWP Benelux conference that was held in Luxembourg. After the conference was finished, I was looking for a new adventure. Shortly after the conference I received an email from IWA with a call to apply for the IWA Emerging Water Leaders Steering Committee (EWLSC). I applied and so it happened. I will be 2 years member now of this committee.
2. Your first reaction when the results were announced? I was very excited. It was a nice recognition for the things that I did in the past and it gave me a boost to continue creating changes for other people and mostly to inspire people.
3. Could you briefly describe your tasks as an “Events and Communications Manager”? At this time we are still working on a strategic plan with the team. Based on the outcomes and the goals that will be set we will try to implement them in (online) events and conferences to get a maximal exposure and impact.
4.Do you think that can we expect for visibility for B-IWA, on the international forum, because of this?
It’s difficult to address already specific actions that will result in more visibility for B-IWA. Of course I will do the best I can to realise that. Although, maybe we should think in the other way around? I think it can be an opportunity for B-IWA to make additional connections world wide and bridge YWP. Any ideas for that are more than welcome!
Successful collaboration between B-IWA and Watercircle
1. How was your experience in hosting the “meet and greet” for students? How many students participated in it?
This was already the 3th time watercircle.be organized the speed date between students and the industry. Extra challenging this year was the online part. We had no clue what to expect from online “job interview” but were very satisfied with the result. We got a higher response rate from the students, as well as, more divers profiles and different universities on board. It seems they were more eager to participate to an online event. This was undoubtedly due to the rising success of Academia Meets Industry and the co-collaboration with B-IWA.
This year we had 18 participating students (in comparison in 2019 we had 15 students (most of them from UGent). In 2018 we only had 12 participating students, all from KU Leuven)
2. How many industrial partners took part in it? Could you name a few, if possible?
5 industrial partners: Blue Foot Membranes, Bosaq, Endress+Hauser, Gea and Procter&Gamble
3. What was the main agenda to hold such an event? Was it fruitful for students looking for opportunities post their Master/PhD studies?
We want to give students the opportunity to scout the market. To learn what it is to do a job interview, what they might expect. On the other hand this event makes the water industry accessible. Apart from interacting with companies during the speed date, during a real life edition, a network reception offers the necessary platform for them to interact with industrial partners.
On the other hand, for the participating companies, they can scout for new employees.
4. Are you aware of any successful transition scenario(s) from academia to industry, through these events?
See our one newsletter from January 2021
5. Did you face any glitches due to the online format of the event?
Not really a glitch, but we did miss the aspects of meeting each other in real life with warm and lively conversations accompanied by a drink.
6. Any word of advice for future job seekers, on why they should attend this event in particular?
It is a really low effort accessible way to get in touch with industry and thus your future career opportunities. The water world is a small world, and with this AMI event we gather most the technology providers in one place. Every participant also gets a word of advice: be bold (but not too much), prepare yourself (look up the companies you want to know more about, look up the CEO’s on LinkedIn, also check the member page on the watercircle.be website for more information) Besides that, Matthias and myself are very young and are approachable for students if they have questions regarding a company, or if they want us to introduce them, we are more than happy to help out.
Extra information for the industries and students from the AMI event
Academia Meets Industry (AMI) is a yearly returning evens of watercircle.be. Since 2020 a collaboration was started with B-IWA to organise this event and to make the programm. during this event, a bridge is make between industry and academia. we focus on collaboration!
Click here for more information
Best research development collaboration award 2020
The project VLIR-UOS Biodiversity Network (2013-2022) aims to train water professionals, via the establishment of innovative research-based master programmes, a PhD programme on natural resources management and a robust linkage to various relevant stakeholders across the country (https://www.vliruos.be/en/projects/project/22?pid=4331, http://www.vlirnetworkecuador.com/). The activities are interuniversity in nature, promoting team teaching and collaboration between universities in Ecuador and Belgium.
Prof. Dr. Luis Dominguez was actively involved in the project proposal development and has been the coordinator of the subproject water resources management. Since the start, Marie Anne Eurie Forio is functioning as scientific coordinator of the project. The project resulted in the collaboration of numerous and diverse activities related to water research, education and management. Among these are the establishment and development of innovative distance-learning programmes and research-based education, that were valuable experiences for dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. Several water sampling campaigns were setup in Ecuador in cooperation with local water managers: two huge campaigns in Guayas basin (as large as whole Belgium), three in the Galapagos islands, two in Cuenca basin and short campaigns in Antisana glacier rivers, Amazon basin, Yahuarcocha lake in Ibarra, and Portoviejo basin. The campaigns were coordinated by both scientists and generated valuable information based on the collaborative involvement of many Flemish researchers and students, and have resulted in the publication of more than 25 scientific articles in water-related topics in the WOS-indexed journals. Fourteen of the published articles were co-authored by Marie Anne and Luis (https://www.researchgate.net/project/VLIR-Ecuador-Network). Noteworthy, the publications and related training activities raised awareness among local water managers leading them to gradually enact on the water-related problems within the country. The data obtained during the sampling campaigns were used in the PhD thesis of Marie Anne Forio (Promoter: Prof. Olivier Thas) and also enabled the generation of 12 master theses.
Aside from the scientific outputs, the cooperation also generated the basis for the organization of international IWA-IDB Innovation conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Both applicants played a major role in the organisation (https://www.globalsustainablewater.org/). In particular, the conference focused on the implementation of innovation for sustainability in the water sector and was the first international event in Ecuador where water professionals of the region interacted with the academic, NGOs, private and public sectors. The organization of the conference gave way to the start-up of the IWA national chapter and Young Water Professionals in Ecuador (https://www.globalsustainablewater.org/iwa-membership-promotion.html). The project was also the basis to synergistic projects such as Watermas, an ERASMUS+ EU-project on introducing water and climate change issues in academic curricula (https://www.watermas.eu/, https://www.watermas.eu/team-corporate/) and the VLIR-UOS NSS project on the development of E-learning tools for water resources management (https://sustainablewaterresources.weebly.com/).
The collaboration enhanced local knowledge about current trends and threats to water resources due to land use in Ecuador, especially in the Guayas basin, home of more than 5 million people, and provided a knowledge transfer towards the adoption of innovative methodologies for sustainable water management in whole Ecuador. National-level collaboration (in Belgium and Ecuador) was moreover achieved through international mobility of professors and students within the network.
Best research award 2020
Publications: Ho, L. T., Alvarado, A., Larriva, J., Pompeu, C., and Goethals, P.: An integrated mechanistic modeling of a facultative pond: Parameter estimation and uncertainty analysis, Water Res, 151, 170-182, 10.1016/j.watres.2018.12.018, 2019.
More than 80% of wastewater from human activities is currently being directly discharged into rivers and seas with no treatment (United Nations 2015). Over the past decennia, centralized and high-technology-based wastewater treatment has emerged as a successful solution in many cities of industrialized countries. However, this conventional wastewater management concept is facing an issue of affordability. In this regard, nature-based approaches have become cost-effective alternatives to treat wastewater, as acknowledged by various researchers and institutions, including the World Bank and WHO (Massoud et al. 2009). Nature-based treatment systems are simple and cost-effective technologies with resilience capacity towards climate change (Ho et al. 2018). Consequently, systems like waste stabilization ponds (WSPs), have been applied for domestic wastewater treatment on a global scale (Ho et al. 2017). In fact, WSPs are ubiquitous. In the US, more than half of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are WSPs (ca. 8,000 facilities) which are also the first choice for nearly all remote communities in Northern Canada (Ho and Goethals 2020). In Europe, WSPs comprise 20% of the total number of urban WWTPs in France and 33% of the WWTPs in Germany (Mara 2009). Nevertheless, pond treatment systems still need to overcome their major drawbacks, such as the high land occupation, inconsistent performance throughout the year and low nutrient removal efficiency (Li et al. 2018). One of the main reasons is the lack of an in-depth understanding of their complex mechanisms, being reflected by the absence of a state-of-the-art framework of WSP design and operation models.
This research developed an integrated mechanistic model simulating not only biogeochemical processes of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus removal, but also the hydraulic and physical processes of a facultative pond in combination with a systematic investigation on model calibration and validation. Despite the high variability of the influent and the climate conditions, the developed WSP model showed a good reliability, based on the agreement between the predictions and observed data. A sensitivity analysis on pond modeling shedded light on the most influential parameters of the pond performance, while a systematic model identification helped to minimize uncertainty and increase robustness.
In summary, this research provided advanced insights into pond treatment mechanism regarding both biogeochemical and hydrodynamic processes that could be used to optimize the design and operation of WSPs, and thus maximize benefits and minimize drawbacks of WSPs. In a follow-up study, the value of this treatment technology has been analyzed in the context of its contribution to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (Ho and Goethals 2019). Learning from this sustainability assessment, in a recent review, a combination of innovative ideas were elaborated to tackle remaining limitations of this pond treatment technology and improve its potential as sustainable ecological engineering solution (Ho and Goethals 2020).
Ho, L. and Goethals, P. (2019) Opportunities and Challenges for the Sustainability of Lakes and Reservoirs in Relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Water 11(7), 1462
Ho, L. and Goethals, P. (2020) Municipal wastewater treatment with pond technology: Historical review and future outlook. Ecological Engineering 148, 105791
Ho, L., et al. (2018) Statistically-Based Comparison of the Removal Efficiencies and Resilience Capacities between Conventional and Natural Wastewater Treatment Systems: A Peak Load Scenario. Water 10(3), 328
Ho, L.T., et al. (2017) Design of waste stabilization pond systems: A review. Water Research 123, 236-248
Li, M., et al. (2018) On the hydrodynamics and treatment efficiency of waste stabilisation ponds: From a literature review to a strategic evaluation framework. Journal of Cleaner Production 183, 495-514
Mara, D.D. (2009) Waste stabilization ponds: Past, present and future. Desalination and Water Treatment 4(1-3), 85-88
Massoud, M.A., et al. (2009) Decentralized approaches to wastewater treatment and management: Applicability in developing countries. Journal of Environmental Management 90(1), 652-659
United Nations, D.o.E. (2015) The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, United Nations Publications.
Best MSc thesis award 2020
Publications: Biostable water, a sustainable solution for the drinking water sector to prevent invasion of pathogens during distibution?
Every year, the Flanders water technology network watercircle.be awards young engineers for their promising research for the water industry. This year, CMET’s Fien Waegenaar won the first price for her master thesis ‘Biostable water, a sustainable solution for the drinking water sector to prevent invasion of pathogens during distribution?' (2019-2020).
This work is the result of a successful collaboration between Ghent University and the Flemish drinking water sector (Aquaflanders). In order to quantify biostable drinking water, Fien examined the invasion potential for two common drinking water coliforms. Next to that, Fien could demonstrate the benefits of online monitoring of drinking water to manage the drinking water quality in practice. Together with the CAPTURE Water partners Pidpa, FARYS, De Watergroep and Water-link, she performed a biological online monitoring project at the drinking water treatment plant in Kluizen. She compared different online monitoring devices and determined the detection limit towards contaminations, such as rainwater.
The project revealed a lot of promising opportunities for the use of real-time monitoring in routine analysis of drinking water quality. In the coming years, the research team has the ambition to develop an early-warning system for the water industry.
Fien was guided by her proud promotors Prof. Nico Boon and Prof. Bart De Gusseme and her tutor Ir. Jorien Favere. Fien recently started working on a PhD in close collaboration with the Flemish drinking water sector (Aquaflanders). Her research is part of a larger SBO project called BIOSTABLE (FWO), which combines the efforts of numerous disciplines and researchers within the CAPTURE research platform (https://capture-resources.be/projects/biostable).
Ir. Fien Waegenaar
Ir. Jorien Favere
Prof. dr. ir. Nico Boon
Prof. dr. ir. Bart De Gusseme
Having access to safe and clean drinking water is a basic human right, as drinking water is an essential food product. Drinking water providers ensure safe and microbial qualitative drinking water at the end of the drinking water treatment by advanced treatment processes and the addition of disinfectants. However, these disinfectants, such as chlorine, may promote bacterial regrowth during distribution when the residual disinfectant is depleted. Moreover, the addition of chlorine enhances the formation of carcinogenic disinfection by-products. Producing biostable water is an alternative approach for these disinfection strategies. This concept implies that no changes may occur in the concentrations and composition of the microbial community during drinking water distribution, without the addition of disinfectants. The production of biostable drinking water will be more and more important in future. It is therefore of utmost importance to monitor the bacterial concentration and the presence of indicator organisms to ensure safe and qualitative drinking water at the tap.
In a first part of this thesis, a biological online monitoring project was performed at the drinking water treatment plant in Kluizen, in which different online monitoring devices were compared. In short, enzymatic techniques, optical analyses, and a technique based on ATP measurements were evaluated. Furthermore, different contaminations were spiked to determine the detection limit of the devices, and it was concluded that a contamination, with for example rainwater, first resulted in an increase in enzymatic activity and the ATP concentrations. Additionally, the objective was to relate operational changes in the production process to changes in the bacterial community determined with the devices. It was shown that backwashing of the activated carbon filters and interruption of the production process resulted in an increase of the bacterial concentration.
In a second part, the aim was to determine the invasion potential of two coliforms in tap water. Therefore, growth experiments were performed, in which the concentration of the invader and the total bacterial concentration were determined with flow cytometry. In addition, experiments were performed to determine the carrying capacity of tap water for each invader. The invaders were not able to grow in tap water, even though they were able to establish in tap water. Finally, the sensitivity of chlorination towards coliforms was determined. It was shown that the coliform Lelliottia amnigena was more resistant against chlorination than the indigenous drinking water community.